World Environment Day: In search of a green canopy
On World Environment Day (June 5), State policymakers and several private players will discuss and implement measures to improve soil fertility, ban plastic bags, restore lakes and beautify beaches. While cosmetic changes continue to assault Chennai, clogged drains and garbage mounds plague denizens.
CHENNAI: Tree planting is one the latest fads that has caught the attention of the so-called ‘woke’ population. Irrespective of the occasion, planting a sapling or two is considered to be socially and environmentally responsible. Unfortunately, many a growing shrub wither and die before reaching its’ prime due to negligence and the inability to commit to long-term care.
Environmentalists lament that restoration of greenery will remain a pipedream if there’s no participation from the public and government. “Ever since the organisation launched, we’re forced on the micro-urban forest. Through this, it helps to grow plants faster in a small space, but maintenance is very important. To preserve it, we do drop irrigation,” says Senthur Paari, president, Exnora Internationals.
Environmentalists suggest that the State government plant saplings in educational institutions and on river banks
They claim that the Metro Water Department charges for treated sewage water. Instead, they can use it to water the planted trees, which would hasten growth, especially during the summer season. “There should be at least 33% green cover. And, as per government data Tamil Nadu has 31% and Chennai has less than 10%. Though we have enough space to grow plants and trees in the city, due to lack of maintenance, there’s no proper vegetation grown here,” adds Senthur.
There are many forest lands in the city but will be hard-pressed to find a good number of tree-covered areas. Environmentalists suggest that the State government plant trees in educational institutions and on river banks. “But it’s the responsibility of both government and public to water it and maintain the saplings. For instance, when a district Collector plants a tree and after a while, he/she’d be replaced, the tree should not be cut. The State must have a mandate on such things,” he points out.
Darwin Annadurai, another activist, states that in residential areas, homeowners must take care of the sapling. “There should be some ownership for the plants. If any organisation and school plant saplings, they should take the responsibility of maintaining it well. But most don’t even provide a tree guard, which is one of the main reasons trees die soon,” adds Darwin.
All choked up under tonnes of garbage!
The key to ecological restoration will be the arrest of sewers into water bodies and the zero-waste management, either at the source or at the dumping yard. To be precise, Chennai has been choking with two garbage mounds with several lakh metric tonnes of garbage at Pallikaranai marshland and Kodungaiyur dump yard decaying for more than 30 years. As per Chennai corporation data, around 5,000 tonnes of garbage are treated daily at these dump yards through segregation, biomining and compost. More than 269 acres of land in Kodungaiyur and 200 acres of Pallikaranai are reduced into waste management sites. These dump yards are not only an eyesore but they have made the nearby neighbourhoods unfit for human habitation with long term ecological effects like polluted air, foul smell and non-potable groundwater.
The civic body deploys 19,000 staff for waste management on daily basis, spending crores of money for waste that is generated by the public. But there are also examples like Adyar Poonga where the State has successfully restored more than 350 acres of land that was used to dump debris and waste, opposite the high-profile Greenways Road and MRC Nagar. The need of the hour is to emulate more Adyar Poonga models.
Photos by Manivasagan N